Woman accused of coughing on $35,000 worth of groceries

Margaret Ann Cirko, of Hanover Township in Luzerne County, is facing charges after police say she coughed on $35,000 worth of groceries at Gerrity’s Supermarket on Wednesday.

Editor's Note: This story has since been updated.

Saliva spat by a woman on produce and food items inside Gerrity’s Supermarket is being considered a “biological agent,” according to court records.

Hanover Township police in Luzerne County allege Margaret Ann Cirko, 35, of 50 Tomko Road, entered the Sans Souci Parkway supermarket yelling, “I have the virus, you’re all going to get sick,” as she intentionally coughed and spat saliva on merchandise Wednesday.

Joe Fasula, co-owner of Gerrity’s, said Cirko caused an estimated $35,000 in damages resulting in a large volume of merchandise being discarded. Fasula believes insurance will cover the losses.

Fasula said he was in his office in Scranton when he was called by the store manager, Leonard Karabon, informing him of the incident.

“When I got the call, I was totally speechless. I didn’t know what to say, I felt bad for the store manager because he was looking for immediate direction, he’s like ‘do we close down the store, do we close down the department.’ It took me a few minutes to collect my thoughts and I said let’s close down the sections where she was,” Fasula told reporters outside the store Thursday.

Fasula said store employees immediately closed down the aisles and discarded contaminated merchandise before disinfecting shelves. Employees returned at 4 a.m. to restock the shelves with merchandise, Fasula said.

“Our employees have been absolutely incredible,” Fasula said. “The amount of work and dedication they put in is simply amazing. As soon as this happened yesterday, they immediately jumped in and they did everything they possibly could to get the product out and get the cases emptied and get the cases cleaned and sanitized.”

Employees: Suspect laughed

Court records say several employees reported seeing Cirko laughing as she was yelling, “I have the virus, now everyone is going to get sick,” while leaning closer to food items to intentionally cough and spit saliva.

Police said an employee stopped Cirko from stealing a 12 pack of beer when she was being chased out of the store. An employee managed to obtain the license plate of a 2008 Ford she drove away in.

Cirko was transported to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital for a mental health evaluation and a test for the COVID-19 virus Wednesday night. The test returned a negative result, police said.

When Cirko was discharged from the hospital, police took her to the office of District Judge Joseph A. Halesey in Hanover Township who arraigned her outside as she sat in the rear seat of a cruiser.

Police charged Cirko with two counts of terroristic threats and one count each of criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, retail theft and bomb threats due to her saliva being designated as a “biological agent.” She was jailed at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility for lack of $50,000 bail.

Police were assisted by the township health officer, state Department of Agriculture, Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office and the state police.

Gerrity’s opened on time Thursday and appeared busy early afternoon.